Meet the Usual Suspects

This is the weeding time for prairies, especially for second-year prairies. The first season, newly seeded prairies are usually mowed to keep the weeds down and let the newly germinated seedlings get sun. The second year we let things go. But that is when many weeds come up with the prairie. Our goal is to do what we can to keep these weeds from seeding out. 

In terms of weeds, the ones I photographed in the prairie below (which came in very well) are the usual suspects of this part of Minnesota. These photos were taken this past week, the week of July 1, 2018. 

One of the more challenging weeds is Canada Thistle. It spreads through its roots and by seed, creating swaths--which can become vast, if left unchecked--of thistle. You can see some of the plants in this patch are getting ready to seed out already. The grasses you see around this patch of Canada Thistle are cool season natives that were seeded last year such as Canada Wildrye and Slender Wheatgrass. They are the first to establish themselves in a newly-seeded prairie, but eventually, over a period of several years, give way to the warm season grasses such as Little Bluestem and Blue Gramma. 

One of the more challenging weeds is Canada Thistle. It spreads through its roots and by seed, creating swaths--which can become vast, if left unchecked--of thistle. You can see some of the plants in this patch are getting ready to seed out already. The grasses you see around this patch of Canada Thistle are cool season natives that were seeded last year such as Canada Wildrye and Slender Wheatgrass. They are the first to establish themselves in a newly-seeded prairie, but eventually, over a period of several years, give way to the warm season grasses such as Little Bluestem and Blue Gramma. 

There was some Burdock in this prairie down in the lower, wetter areas. It's a big, strong plant that puts out seeds that are the size of a marble and stick to your clothes as you walk through them. It comes by many names, but where I grew up in Southern Minnesota, it is called "Cocklebur."

There was some Burdock in this prairie down in the lower, wetter areas. It's a big, strong plant that puts out seeds that are the size of a marble and stick to your clothes as you walk through them. It comes by many names, but where I grew up in Southern Minnesota, it is called "Cocklebur."

This is Bull Thistle. Its stem is larger and thicker than Canada thistle and its needles are longer and more menacing. One finds the solitary Bull Thistle plant in a prairie, unlike the large patches characteristic of Canada Thistle.  

This is Bull Thistle. Its stem is larger and thicker than Canada thistle and its needles are longer and more menacing. One finds the solitary Bull Thistle plant in a prairie, unlike the large patches characteristic of Canada Thistle.  

The Mullein in this prairie was not common, but it has the potential to spread. You can see its seeds at the top of the plant. It's a strange, exotic-looking plant that came from Greece, so I recall reading. One gets a good sense of the native grasses we slogged through to get to the weeds. 

The Mullein in this prairie was not common, but it has the potential to spread. You can see its seeds at the top of the plant. It's a strange, exotic-looking plant that came from Greece, so I recall reading. One gets a good sense of the native grasses we slogged through to get to the weeds. 

Curled Dock is also a prolific weed. It's seeds have an interesting texture and color, especially in the late summer when it's ready to seed out. It is said that one plant can put out 10,000 seeds. 

Curled Dock is also a prolific weed. It's seeds have an interesting texture and color, especially in the late summer when it's ready to seed out. It is said that one plant can put out 10,000 seeds. 

This is Wormwood. It has a lighter color and is in the Sage family. It has a nice smell but can be very invasive and hard to get rid of. I took this photo from the cab of my tractor as I was mowing it with a flail mower. There were a couple areas that were covered with it on this project. It's very fibrous and hard to cut with a bean hook, so for the sake of efficiency, these would be areas to mow. 

This is Wormwood. It has a lighter color and is in the Sage family. It has a nice smell but can be very invasive and hard to get rid of. I took this photo from the cab of my tractor as I was mowing it with a flail mower. There were a couple areas that were covered with it on this project. It's very fibrous and hard to cut with a bean hook, so for the sake of efficiency, these would be areas to mow. 

For the individual weeds or small patches, we use a bean hook. It's a simple tool but very effective for cutting weeds at the base with minimal strain to one's back. The blade is the curved piece of metal, so the cutting happens by pulling the tool. It allowed us to cut the weeds but leave the natives standing. 

For the individual weeds or small patches, we use a bean hook. It's a simple tool but very effective for cutting weeds at the base with minimal strain to one's back. The blade is the curved piece of metal, so the cutting happens by pulling the tool. It allowed us to cut the weeds but leave the natives standing. 

Here we are with our bean hooks going after the small patches of individual weeds. It's hard work but quite satisfying know the weeds will not be seeding out this year.

Here we are with our bean hooks going after the small patches of individual weeds. It's hard work but quite satisfying know the weeds will not be seeding out this year.